The supplements saga that has dogged Essendon’s past two AFL seasons is one step closer to its conclusion.
ASADA on Friday issued amended show-cause notices to the 34 players they allege were administered the banned peptide thymosin beta 4 while on the Bombers’ books in 2012.
Players have 10 days to lodge a submission to the Anti-Doping Rule Violation Panel (ADRVP) in response.
The independent panel is set to hear the 34 matters in early November, with its decision to be relayed to the AFL via ASADA soon after.
The AFL would then be in a position to issue potential infraction notices, should the panel decide players have a case to answer.
“Everyone wants this to play out quickly. To get to a resolution as fast as we can,” AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan told reporters at a Children’s Cancer Centre Foundation lunch on Friday.
“The AFL and ASADA. The players. Everyone would welcome that next step.”
ASADA cautioned the ADRVP hearings “may take longer than normal for appropriate deliberation … due to the complexity and volume of material”.
The anti-doping body noted it will also consider requests from any of the 34 players who want additional time to make a submission.
The Bombers have been asking ASADA to put its evidence on the table for the better part of two years.
On Friday it did as much, sending out approximately 12,000 pages in total.
“Each amended notice is individually tailored and is approximately 350 pages in length,” ASADA said in a statement.
“All notices include a comprehensive summary of the evidence in support of the case against each player.”
AFL Players’ Association chief executive Paul Marsh confirmed the notices had been received.
“The players’ legal team will review the material in the coming days and discuss the contents with players, to determine what response, if any, they will provide,” said Marsh.
Friday’s notices are more detailed and nuanced compared to those filed earlier in the year.
“When you’re not dealing with a positive test – you’re looking at collections of circumstantial evidence,” former ASADA chief Richard Ings told radio station SEN.
“You’re looking at a paper trail, looking at witness statements – different pieces of information.”
The anti-doping body’s original show-cause notices prompted unsuccessful legal action from players, coach James Hird and the AFL club.
Hird’s appeal – against Justice John Middleton’s ruling that ASADA’s investigation was lawful – will be heard on November 10.
“Notwithstanding James Hird’s appeal of the Federal Court decision, ASADA has agreed to a formal request by the legal team for the bulk of the players to expedite the show-cause notice process,” ASADA said.
The club decided not to appeal the crushing verdict.
The players are also taking no part in the ongoing legal challenge against the probe.
The majority of the 34 implicated in the scandal remain part of the Bombers’ squad.
Ruckman Paddy Ryder, who joined Port Adelaide on the final day of trade period, is among the minority at rival clubs.